Prior to the start of the playoffs, we said that the second round would be the toughest round for the Lakers, that Houston (and Portland) were the biggest matchup and deepest teams LA would face. Denver may have something to say about that logic now (they are playing interior defense for the first time in recent memory) but the Rockets gave us a reminder they are a good team.
This loss was all about the Lakers offense — or lack thereof — and the Rockets defense.
The Rockets defense is good and one result of that is players to do things a little more hurried — you know the rotation is coming, so you rush the shot just a little. Then miss. Even when open. Combine that with a little rust from a week off and you get 2 for 18 from three and Gasol missing the 15-footer that is usually automatic for him. Then when other players starts missing, Kobe starts taking on more shots (as he is hot) and suddenly the 2006 Lakers are on the floor.
But, as Darius explains, the Rockets took the Lakers out of how they wanted to execute on offense:
For all the talk that Gasol is our biggest advantage we seemed to feel that he’s best served shooting mid-range jumpers rather than going into the post against Scola. Phil was dead on when he commented that “I don’t like the way we’re using Gasol”. I know he didn’t have his touch tonight and if he makes some of those FT line jumpers we have a different game, but when those shots weren’t falling we did not adjust. I mean, what’s the point of starting two seven footers if we don’t go into the post where we have a size advantage at PF? Both Bynum and Pau settled for jumper after jumper and while Andrew made some, Pau did not. Our entire plan must change if we are to win games and ultimately the series. Ultimately, some of those post Iso’s that Bynum got against Yao early in the game need to go to Pau on Scola. Simple and plain.
Reed was right from the comments before the series — we have a point guard problem in this series. Here is what he wrote in an email before the series:
I don’t like the PG matchup for us. Brooks will run circles around Fisher; ditto Lowry. I think Houston sizably wins that matchup. I love what we got from Brown last series but am not ready to expect that kind of consistent production. And I’ve totally given up on Farmar. The thought of him defending either Brooks or Lowry terrifies me (and it’s not as if they are Deron and Chris Paul).
Brooks ran circles around Fisher and there were terrible interior rotations behind him, and the result was layups. And a problem in that Brooks is now the guy who can create his own shot when the clock is running down (something Lakers fans thought the Rockets would struggle with).
The answer, amazingly, may be more Jordan Farmar. Despite his slump of the last month or so, he showed some quickness on defense and a little hunger in his few minutes. Brooks did not drive on him (although he may have been tired from running by Fisher all night). And he hit the three. Just as ShanWOW had before, Farmar earned a little more run with his performance in game one.
The Lakers did not get to the line a lot, but remember that is the goal of the Rockets defense — contest but don’t foul. And the Lakers — Kobe in particular — were willing to take those jumpers rather than attack for much of the game. (To be fair, Kobe was draining them for a while.) But the Lakers need to attack (which goes back to Darius’ point earlier).
Also, 93 possessions in that game. Too slow. Too grinding. Pick it up.
Another quick note — I’m happy that was not a serious knee injury with Yao.
Finally. I’ll let Darius talk about our X-Factor:
I was pretty disappointed with LO tonight (and being one of his bigger advocates, that’s saying something, I think). He was awful at the FT line and didn’t have any rhythm on his jumper (surprise, surprise to few, but he was making that shot against the Jazz). He was scrappy on the offensive glass with four on that end, but when he only gets 5(!) total (so only one defensive rebound!! in 32 minutes!!!), he’s not working hard enough. Plus, if he’s not rebounding on our defensive glass, he can’t push the pace or start the break from the glass which is a major advantage he can give us. So, I was upset with my guy. I hope he’ll do better in upcoming games, but Adelman was extremely smart in putting Ron on him and, as we saw when Boston put Posey on LO, Lamar struggles when SF’s who can stay with him on the perimeter and body him when he cuts guard him. He needs to go to the post more in those instances, but we’ll see if he adjusts his game.